THE front page of the Sunday World yesterday has to be one of its grimmest yet – the body of a man dangling by his neck from a bridge in Bangor. There have been efforts quite recently to try and change the reporting of suicide, and indeed the Press Complaints Commission’s Code of Practice recommends that “When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.”
It does have a little asterisk beside it, listing exceptions that can be made in the public interest. These include “Detecting or exposing crime or serious impropriety” and “Preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation”. Perhaps there is an argument in that while the police said there was nothing suspicious about the death, the hands of the deceased may have been bound behind his back.
Defending his decision, the editor, Jim McDowell, said the body had been in full public view for three hours. In the event of a complaint, the PCC would indeed have to “consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain”. He added that the picture used by the newspaper meant the dead man was not identifiable.
I don’t think PCC complaints will have any effect, no law was broken, I have no problem with news that makes readers uncomfortable, and the Sunday World can print what it likes. Still, I’ve yet to hear anyone argue that the use of the picture on the front page was necessary and in the public interest, rather than voyeuristic sensationalism. Then again, readers are less shockable these days, and we all rubberneck at car crashes.